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Jack Simpson: Campaign financing

Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson

I guess you did not get an invitation from George Clooney to attend his $40,000-a-plate dinner for President Obama, huh? Sorry to say, I'm in the same boat! Even if I had been invited, my spouse and I could not have afforded the price of admission.

Actually, I'm seldom, if ever, considered VIP enough to break bread with the chosen few. Am I sorry about it? No, not really. I'm not much on eating hors d'oeuvres and I don't collect photos of myself with presidents or with anyone else that wants a fee for participation.

Somehow paying $40,000 to glad-hand a group of wealthy people and be photographed with them isn't all that appealing to me. I find politics and its fundraising a strange way to run a government. Money paid for access to a politician with hope of future favors doesn't seem quite honest.

Being born and reared during the Great Depression, we learned early in life that $40,000 was a great deal of money to some people. We felt that the rich and the poor people alike should have equal access to candidates for public office and no one should have to pay money to shake the hand of a president.

When the president attends one of these fundraisers, he is seeking money to promote himself, his party and his politics. Those who pay to go may be his supporters or they may go to hobnob, build their ego even if they do not agree with all policies.

A recent fundraiser in New York City, hosted by Ricky Martin, sold out of $5,000 tickets after President Obama announced his support for gay marriage. Did the president time this announcement in an effort to gain more campaign funds? There is no question about it. What the president says about his policies has a great effect on his fundraising. Gays will probably support him now even more than before his evolving statement.

Not only gays, but certain other groups will exercise greater power through their fundraising and spending to promote candidates.

Maybe one day you and I may be invited to one of these fancy fundraisers. If we happen to be flush at the time, we might go. We might attend just to mingle and meet celebrities, or we might participate in the debate over free speech or corruption and inequality in campaign financing.

Billions are being spent on election campaigns and the money is coming from political action committees, unions, large corporations, candidates themselves and individuals who can afford $40,000-a-plate exclusive events.

We might go looking for an ego or image boost, or in hopes of receiving a future benefit. Oh, yes, we just might buy a black tie and tuxedo, dress in our finery and join the special interests, if even for but one exclusive dinner with a president.

As of April, President Obama has raised $43.6 million for party coffers, some of it from just such dinners. It might be worth the price to hear him talk his way around the housing and job problems and the record deficit!

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.